Berliner Tageblatt - Nagelsmann gambles pay off as Germany shine in Euro 2024 opener

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Nagelsmann gambles pay off as Germany shine in Euro 2024 opener
Nagelsmann gambles pay off as Germany shine in Euro 2024 opener / Photo: © AFP

Nagelsmann gambles pay off as Germany shine in Euro 2024 opener

Germany's dominant 5-1 win over Scotland in Friday's Euro 2024 opener has home fans dreaming again and is a vindication of coach Julian Nagelsmann's efforts.

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In the job for less than a year, the performance showed how Nagelsmann has struck the perfect balance for a team which has struggled on the big stage since winning the 2014 World Cup.

Nowhere was this more evident than in Germany's two opening goals, which had elements of Germany's past, present and future.

Germany's first was created by a long Toni Kroos pass, collected by Joshua Kimmich who laid the ball on for Florian Wirtz to sidefoot a shot home.

For the second, captain Ilkay Gundogan cut a delicate ball through the Scottish defence to Kai Havertz and the Arsenal man held up the ball and found Jamal Musiala, who unleashed a rocket into the top of the net.

Germany will face greater challenges than a Scottish side whose only win in their past 10 games came against Gibraltar -- and who were reduced to 10 men late in the first half -- but the nature of Friday's victory will have fans optimistic of a deep run on home soil.

- Germany's settled XI -

Nagelsmann shook up the squad to start 2024, dropping big names Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Mats Hummels and Niklas Suele.

Instead, he went with a form-based side heavy with players from eventual champions Bayer Leverkusen and surprise runners-up Stuttgart.

After the experimentation of former boss Hansi Flick, Nagelsmann settled on a starting XI in March and only deviated when forced to by injuries.

Germany have since won four of five games, including victories over France and the Netherlands, scoring 11 and conceding just three.

Nagelsmann's masterstroke, bringing back Kroos, may seem more obvious with every passing fixture, but the coach on Thursday revealed the Real Madrid veteran only agreed to come back when he felt Germany could win the Euros.

The six-time Champions League winner, retiring at the end of the tournament, was clearly won over by what Nagelsmann had to say.

The other success was finding a way for Germany's two 21-year-old super talents Wirtz and Musiala to flourish in the same team.

The attacking midfielders play similar roles at club level, with some doubting the duo would be able to harmonise alongside each other with only one ball to go around.

Nagelsmann however found a way to unleash their talents ahead of what could be a fruitful decade for the two in German colours.

- 'We're going to Berlin' -

Since making the semi-finals at Euro 2016, Germany have struggled at major competitions.

They were eliminated at the group stage in Russia in 2018 -- their earliest World Cup exit in 80 years.

Germany lost to a final-bound England at the Euros in 2021 and were again eliminated before the knockout stage at the Qatar World Cup a year later.

But a decade since winning the World Cup in Brazil, Friday's win might have German fans believing the good times are back.

With 20 minutes left, just after Niclas Fuellkrug scored the fourth with a thunderbolt five minutes after coming on, the home fans began chanting "Berlin, Berlin, we're going to Berlin."

The chant, usually sung by club fans in reference to the location of the German Cup final, shows the hosts believe they can make it to the capital on July 14 for the tournament's showpiece event.

To do so, host nation Germany would have to overturn recent history.

While Euros host nations have made it to the final of three of the past five Euros, a home side has not lifted the trophy since 1984, when France defeated Spain 2-0 at the Parc des Princes.

Nagelsmann will be careful to temper expectations but Germany have showed they the right ingredients to overturn recent history while making some of their own at the tournament.

K.Brown--BTB